THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART SIX – THE KINGDOM PRINCIPLE
So, over the past few weeks we have been covering the mysteries of God’s kingdom—which are the parables that Jesus taught describing both the nature and operation of the kingdom of God. And through these parables, we are learning how the kingdom of God both works and functions so that we can begin letting those spiritual laws work for us in our lives.
And, church, it is such a refreshing thing to me that God’s kingdom has principles that govern it just like this world around us has its natural laws that determine how things work. Why? Because if it is not a hit or miss thing, where I am dependent on something or someone else, then I know I can choose to cooperate with these kingdom laws and determine myself just how fruitful I am in my life.
So, that’s what we’ve been doing—We’ve been looking at some of these principles that govern God’s kingdom and learning how it works. But we have begun by learning that the analogy of sowing & reaping was the most oft used example that Jesus used to teach about what the kingdom is like. Yes, He used the example of seedtime & harvest more than any other thing to describe how the kingdom of God works.
Most recently, we looked at the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. And, no, not the Parable of the Tares as Jesus’ disciples called it. And that was a point we made concerning it—that while we have the tendency to look at the negative side of things in the world around us, the tares don’t deserve all the attention. There is also good seed that has been planted and is bringing forth fruit, and that is worth celebrating!
You see, the kingdom of God is always advancing and ever increasing, and we must avoid the tendency to let what we see and hear in the world around us steal our faith in what God is doing. And we do this by keeping ever before us the good news instead of the bad news.
So, yes, while there is certainly the bad seed out there—the tares sown by the wicked one—there is the good seed too. That means that in everyone and in everything—from the entire world to our individual lives—there will be good and there will be bad, wheat and tares. So, why focus on the flaws and the evil instead of the beauty and the good that God has made and is making?
Which is another point we made: We are one of those good things God has made! Yes, we learned from this parable that part of the gospel is that we are “good seed.” Yes, the Lord sees all of the sons of His kingdom as “good seed.” Do you see yourself that way? You should—because God does. Amen.
But, as I made the point of last week, one of the more fascinating parts of this parable to me is how the Lord will deal with these things: God is not quick to judge the tares! No, His judgment is apparently suspended. Why? As the Scriptures teach us, it is because God is longsuffering, not desiring that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. Yes, He gives all of the tares out there space to repent and turn to Him. That is the gracious and merciful God we serve! Hallelujah!
But we also noticed in this parable that this impending judgment of being thrown into the fire was not reserved for the wheat but for the tares. In other words, the judgment was not for the good seed that the Lord sowed; it was for the bad seed that the devil sowed. Now, which one are you? Well, I hope that we all here today are the good seed—the wheat sown by the Lord Jesus—and if we are, we don’t need to fear God’s wrath and punishment—for we are not reserved for wrath but that we might be gathered together and put in God’s barn as Jesus said here. Amen. Then, as Jesus said, “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (See verse 43). Glory, church, our destiny is to shine as the sun (i.e., Son)—all because the Lord sowed us, the good seed.
Then, the week before last, we looked at another agricultural parable given to us by the Lord—The Parable of the Mustard Seed:
We learned in this parable that Jesus was drawing on the single best natural example that He could, to paint a picture of what the kingdom of God is like. So, out of every example from this world that Jesus could have used to illustrate God’s kingdom, He chose to use the example of a mustard seed.
We learned that in God’s kingdom, small and seemingly insignificant things have great potential. We looked at Jesus’ example of faith being like a mustard seed as how God’s kingdom works, where it is not by works and self-effort that things get produced but by faith in God’s grace.
But we saw how this mustard seed in Jesus’ parable was not just faith; it was Himself because of how it was said to be taken by the man and put in his garden. This was how the First Adam was said to be placed in Eden. So, the Last Adam was sown not just on to the earth, but into the earth like a mustard seed. And the fact He described Himself as a mustard seed shows us how “little” He was, being made a “little” lower than the angels. Yes, as Isaiah 53 said, He was a tender plant and a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness.
So, we saw how this mustard seed grew and became a large tree, full of large branches. And we are those large branches, church! Now that little mustard seed has become even greater than the angels, having received an even more excellent name than they! Likewise, being parts of His body and heirs of this kingdom, we have the blessed promise that the Lord’s angels will minister to those who have inherited salvation. Amen! Church, Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and we are that church—the branches of that mustard tree that was sown into the earth and has arisen from the ground!
But the first parable we looked at that teaches this principle of sowing & reaping was Jesus’ Parable of the Sower: We spent a couple of weeks in this parable, learning that this was Jesus’ most fundamental and foundational teaching, describing how the kingdom of God worked. We saw both what the seed is and what the ground is, and how God’s Word being sown into the good ground of our hearts is how the fruit of God’s kingdom is produced.
We learned that just as Jesus said in this parable that a sower that went out to sow, we too must be intentional and deliberate in, first, seeing ourselves as sowers and, secondly, as living our lives sowing seed in a purposeful manner. We do this by understanding what the seed is (i.e., the Word of God’s kingdom) and selecting specific seed from His Word to sow into our own lives and into the lives of others.
We also learned how to sow this respective seed—by first meditating on these truths until they are planted in our hearts and then speaking those same truths out of our mouths until they change the very circumstances that we desire to see God’s kingdom come in. Amen!
Church, this is how things work in God’s kingdom. It is a spiritual law--the kingdom principle if you would.
THE PARABLE OF THE GROWING SEED
So, what I want to talk to you about today is the kingdom principle. That’s right—not a kingdom principle or one of the kingdom principles—This is the kingdom principle.
Now I understand that this is a strong statement to call this the absolute law of the kingdom, but I can assure you, just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the law of sowing & reaping is the way, the truth and the life of the kingdom of God. Amen!
Well, this week, I want us to move on in discussing this kingdom principle by looking at another parable that Jesus taught us using the same example of sowing & reaping found in Mark 4:26-29. I believe this parable more concisely illustrates to us this kingdom principle than the Parable of the Sower …
In this, what is traditionally called the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus uses a similar example to the Parable of the Sower. But this time, the lesson to be learned is not about the condition of the ground; the focus of this parable is how the ground (i.e., the heart) and the seed (i.e., the Word) already have programmed in them what to do when the seed is planted in the ground.
So, let’s look in depth at this parable and pick out some of the powerful nuggets contained in it:
Verse 26 begins by saying— “And He said …” Now by using the conjunction “And” here, we should see our need to understand what He had just said before moving on into this parable.
Of course, Jesus had just taught the Parable of the Sower, and then, in verses 23-24, He says, “’If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you, and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, but whoever does not have, even what has will be taken away from him.”
Basically, what Jesus was teaching here is that we need to both take heed to what we are hearing and how we are hearing it. Why? Because this is evidently how the seed of God’s Word is sown into our hearts and can greatly determine both the quantity and quality of fruit that we produce. Amen! So, we need to be extremely vigilant concerning what we allow to be sown into our hearts because, as Solomon taught us, out of our hearts flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Then Jesus went on to say in verse 26— “The kingdom of God is as…” In other words, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
So, let’s look at this kingdom principle as illustrated in Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed and find out how His kingdom works so that we can see it working in our lives! Amen?
NO RESPECTOR OF SOWERS
Again, Jesus says in verse 26— “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground …”
Now notice that He used the word “if” here: By using the word “if”, Jesus is saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will become effective in our lives or not. Amen?
Now I believe this point needs to be made here: Did you know that if everything that happened in our lives was the will of God, we could have no “if?” Absolutely! If there is an “if” in a passage of Scripture like this one, then that indicates that there is a part we have to play in seeing God’s will come to pass in our lives. Amen?
Now we know from the previous parable in Mark chapter 4 (the Parable of the Sower) that the seed is the Word of God and the ground is our hearts. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that is good, noble and pure (See Luke 8:15).
But I find something very interesting here in Mark chapter 4: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is! Amen!
You see, a seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time! It doesn’t matter how the seed got there or who it was that sowed it! The seed is programmed to work no matter whose hands it was scattered through. So, who the sower might be is irrelevant.
But I know some people might argue this point, saying, “No, brother, I believe the sower here is the Lord Himself!” I differ from that interpretation, however, because notice what Jesus went on to say that the sower did next in His Parable of the Growing Seed (verse 27): He said, “and should sleep by night and rise by day …” Don’t the Scriptures teach us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121: 3-4)? Don’t they teach us that there is no nighttime in the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 22:5)? Therefore, the man in this parable that did the sowing cannot be symbolic of God; it has to be a man since God does not sleep, correct?
But the fact of the matter is, it does not matter who that sower is because the seed and the ground do their thing whether one person sows it or another person sows it.
Saints, even if it was God who was doing the sowing here, it still would not matter because (get this now!) God’s Word coming out of our mouth is just as powerful as God’s Word coming out of His mouth! Amen! How can I make such a bold statement? It’s because it is God’s Word, and it is a seed! Therefore, if we just take His Word that He has already spoken and plant it in good ground, it will produce the same results! Amen!
Friends, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!” Praise God!
ENTERING INTO HIS REST
But the point of this parable is that this man (whoever he happens to be) just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
You know, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest.
Friends, this is such a super important part of kingdom living—entering into the Lord’s rest! Yet this is so hard on our flesh. And, no, I am not talking about “resting” from a natural perspective, but “resting” from a mental, emotional, and spiritual perspective.
Do you remember the words of the Master in Matthew 11:28-30 when He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you … for My yoke is easy and My burden is light”?
I would venture to say that every one of us has to learn this at some point or another once we become Christians. Why? It is because it is so easy to try to make things happen in the arm of the flesh and lean to our own understanding. When we do this, what this causes is undue stress as opposed to living in the rest that Christ has afforded us.
But do you know what I’ve learned? As I have come to know God—intimately and experientially—I have learned how to better enter His rest. Let me give you a good example: If I buy something from some person or company, and it is defective or maybe never even arrives, I might tend to be a little anxious and fret if I’ve never done business with them before. Will they make it right? I might be thinking. But if I know the person or company and have seen their integrity or their good customer service before, I will be more at peace even though there might be issues with the product. Why? Because I have come to know them and trust in how they do business.
Likewise, we need to be so much about our Father’s business to where we are convinced and persuaded of how He does business. When we do this, we will learn to enter His rest. Amen.
You see, we cannot bear fruit in God’s kingdom by “white-knuckling” it. What I mean by that is that the fruit that comes according to this kingdom principle will not be produced by the will of man or the will of the flesh (See John 1:13). No, the transformation of life in God’s kingdom only comes by resting in the work of another—namely, the Grace of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
So, with that said—Does this mean we can just kick back and relax and let God do everything? Does it mean that we have no part to play? Of course not, or else every born-again believer would be bearing a bunch of fruit, right?
So, what part do we have to play? It is found in these kingdom parables found in Mark chapter 4—just sow the Word! Our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God be God! Hallelujah!
Isaiah chapter 55 describes how this works in a nutshell:
Beginning in verse 6, he says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ‘For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Verses 6-11)
Notice in these words how the Lord’s thoughts and ways are described as being higher than the earth. Then he goes on to describe how the rain and snow come down from the heaven. I don’t believe the Lord was changing “thoughts” here; I believe He was describing how His thoughts and ways have come down to us, and how they will produce when sown into the ground of our hearts.
You see, Jesus was telling us here that His Word already has programmed in it to produce what it was sent to perform and the good and noble heart that is not full of the weeds, thorns and rocks of this world will germinate the seed. All we have to do is spend time meditating on His Word till it becomes planted in our hearts and then just rest from trying to force fruit in our lives! Amen!
Church, the Word is the source of our fruit, not us. This is why Jesus went on to say in this parable— “and the seed should sprout and grow …” Amen! It’s the seed that does the sprouting and growing all on its own, without any of the sower’s help! He can just kick back and rest knowing the seed is working behind the scenes! Thank you, Lord!
Now that leads me to what I consider to be the most significant phrase in this parable …
Notice what Jesus said in the rest of verse 27— “he himself does not know how.” I believe this is the most powerful statement in this parable and I also believe that it is the point Jesus was trying to convey.
Again, this sower simply planted the seed in good ground and then there was nothing else he could do to help the process! He could just rest! Then, after the process of time, the seed began to sprout and grow, and he couldn’t even explain how it happened.
You see, this is the only way God will allow you to grow spiritually. He is not going to let you try and force fruit in your life. Actually, if you try to force fruit, the Bible teaches us He will actually oppose you (See Proverbs 4:6)! Why? Because He wants all the glory! He does not want you to be able to take credit for your growth. He wants you to be like this sower who would have had to say if asked about the harvest he had in his field— “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!” Thank you, Lord!
You see, in verse 28 Jesus goes on to say, “For the earth yields crops by itself …” Here, Jesus reiterates that the earth produces by itself—not with any help from the owner of the ground. The crop just comes forth independent from his help.
Friends, the earth—being the heart of man—will produce whatever you sow into it. As Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Never forget this one thing: you will become in your actions whatever you have allowed yourself to become in your heart. Therefore, when you meditate on the Word of God and allow those seeds to be planted in your heart you will eventually produce the fruit of the Word. You become transformed by the renewing of your mind (See Romans 12:2).
Finally, notice that Jesus gives us the steps that this harvest takes place in the remaining part of verse 28: He says, “first the blade, then the head, and after that the full grain in the head.” What this is speaking of is patience!
You see, most believers, when they get a hold of this principle, will begin to read and meditate the Word and then when they don’t see any results in, for instance, a month, they quit and say it doesn’t work. Well, how ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? That would be ridiculous, right?
No, reaping a harvest is a process! Eventually, we will start seeing some results as we abide by this kingdom principle, but don’t expect the full harvest to come quickly. We have to go through stages one and two first (i.e., “first the blade, then the head”)! And then, don’t quit—knowing that the full grain in the head is coming in due season if we faint not!
This is why Jesus said in His Parable of the Sower, that the good ground—the one that produced some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold—bore fruit with patience (See Luke 8:15). There will be an element of patience involved in whatever God gives increase in. Although there are certainly the “immediately’s” and the “suddenly’s” in God’s kingdom, this is not how the fruit that endures is generally produced. In God’s kingdom, abiding fruit is produced through patience. Amen!
But this abiding fruit comes when God’s Word is sown into our hearts, and as we allow God’s Word to spring up in our hearts, then we will begin to see the production of it in our lives.
So, when we desire to see the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it! It works every time, my friends! It is a law! It is the kingdom principle! Amen!
So, we started a study on the various parables that Jesus taught about God’s kingdom a few weeks back in an attempt to learn how the kingdom of God operates. And I entitled this series “The Mysteries of the Kingdom” because this was the terminology Jesus used to describe these various examples He used to describe how the kingdom works!
We’ve started out learning that the analogy of sowing & reaping / seedtime & harvest is the most oft used example that Jesus used to teach about what the kingdom is like.
We looked at this kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest through Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In it, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the ground that it is sown into is our hearts. So, while everything in God’s kingdom begins with a seed, it all has to do with the heart. This was Jesus’ most foundational and fundamental parable describing God’s kingdom.
Then last week, we looked at another one of these seedtime & harvest type parables—Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed: We saw that through this parable, Jesus was drawing on the single best natural example that He could to paint a picture of what the kingdom of God is like. That’s why He asked the question— “What shall we compare the kingdom to? With what picture shall we use to describe it? This is important, church, because out of every example from this world that Jesus could have used to illustrate God’s kingdom, He chose to use the example of a mustard seed. And that is the part of this parable that is of the most importance—the mustard seed.
So, we looked at the example of the mustard seed and saw how it was a reoccurring example used by Jesus in His ministry to teach on faith. Therefore, we made the point that in God’s kingdom, everything operates by faith. It’s not our works; nor is it solely God’s grace. No, faith is what the kingdom of God works on. But we saw that the point that Jesus was making through His examples of the mustard seed was that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which was widely viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds. But many Christians still err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more results.” This is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have: We saw that a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herbs. So, it’s not about more faith; it is simply about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results. Again, this is how the kingdom works. (If you missed that last week, I would encourage you to go back and listen to it).
But what we mainly looked at last week was, not what, but Who the mustard seed in this parable represented: We saw how this mustard seed was HIM. Yes, the mustard seed in this parable was referring the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!
We saw from Luke’s account how Jesus described this mustard seed as that “which a man took and put in his garden” (Luke 13:19). You see, the “man” that Jesus was referring to was obviously God the Father. God took His only begotten Son and intentionally sowed Him on the earth, which is His garden. And we saw that this is reminiscent of how the Bible teaches us that God placed the first Adam in His garden: In Genesis 2:15, where we are told— “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” So, just by that one Scripture, it seems obvious that the “man” that Jesus referred to is “the Lord God” and the “mustard seed” that He put in His garden is the Man, Jesus Christ, also known as the Last Adam. But in the case of the Last Adam, He wasn’t just put here on the earth to tend and keep it; no, Jesus—as that mustard seed—came to be sown into it not just onto it. And we know how this happened: He was crucified and sown into that tomb like a seed, but like it is with planting seeds, the purpose was not just for His crucifixion and burial; the ultimate goal was for a resurrection of that Seed! And this is exactly what happened! God received a harvest from that Mustard Seed He sowed into the earth! Amen!
Then we saw how in Luke’s Gospel, we are told that this mustard seed “grew,” which is also how Jesus was described in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. As the prophet Isaiah also stated— “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (See Isaiah 53:2). Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His garden, and that mustard seed grew.
But we saw that it wasn’t just Jesus that was doing the growing; it was His kingdom that was increasing as well! Yes, throughout His entire ministry, His kingdom was growing. It was expanding. Might we say, the King and His kingdom were taking “ground”?
Finally, we saw how Jesus went on to describe that when this little mustard seed grew up, it become this great tree with large branches to where “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” And we saw from this that these birds represented heavenly beings, specifically God’s heavenly angels: You see, the Book of Hebrews teaches us that when Jesus came to the earth, He was made a little lower than the angels (See Hebrews 2:9). Now, after He was raised from the dead and received His glorified body, He is no longer lower than the angels. He is now become greater than they! (Hebrews 1:4-14).
So, a great principle of God’s kingdom for us to understand is this—We are His branches that these birds are now nesting in (See John 15:5)! Therefore, being parts of His body and heirs of this kingdom, we have the blessed promise that the Lord’s angels will minister to those who have inherited salvation. Amen! Church, Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and we are that church—the branches of that mustard tree that was sown into the earth and has arisen from the ground!
THE PARABLE OF THE TARES AND WHEAT
So, let’s stay on that same vein of sowing & reaping, seedtime & harvest this week, shall we? Let’s look at a parable that Jesus taught on the same day that He taught those ten-plus kingdom parables, commonly known as “The Parable of the Tares and the Wheat.”
Now, consequently, this parable is only told in the Gospel of Matthew. So, for some reason, the Holy Spirit did not inspire the other Gospel writers to tell this one—even though this was the one that Jesus’ disciples specifically came to him, inquiring as to what it meant.
It is found in Matthew 13:24-30. Let’s look the parable itself and then we will look at the interpretation Jesus gives:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So, the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’.”
Now here’s Jesus’ explanation in verses 36-43: “Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
First of all, notice the unique phrase— “Another parable He put forth to them …” The words “put forth” literally describe placing something beside something else like if you were to put a book on the nightstand beside your side of the bed.
So, I see Jesus as essentially letting His disciples know— “Hey guys, I’m going to just leave this with you. Put in on the shelf and keep it nearby because this is a good piece of information about My kingdom.”
Then Jesus tells them (& us) the parable: He begins with “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field …”
So, again, the man in this parable is obviously the Lord. We know this for a fact because in His explanation of this parable, Jesus said in verse 37 that the One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man—an obvious allusion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now it is important to note that this is one of those times where Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” As one reads through the Gospels, we can see that sometimes Jesus is referred to as the Son of Man and other times as the Son of God. So, which one is true? Is He the Son of Man or the Son of God? The answer is—they both are! Jesus is 100% God, and He is 100% man—not 50/50. And when we see Him referred to as the Son of Man, this is referring to His humanity, not His deity.
So, when Jesus refers to Himself here as the Son of Man, we are not talking about Him sowing this good seed from His heavenly position, but from His position as a Man. Therefore, the time frame which these good seeds are sown was most likely during His earthly ministry if not soon thereafter, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
So, what is the good seed that He sowed? Again, we don’t have to speculate because Jesus told us plainly that they are the “sons of the kingdom”—this being, the children of God and those born of His Spirit (See verse 38).
So, it is interesting to me that in one sense, Jesus uses the seed to describe the Word of God (See the Parable of the Sower), and now uses the seed to describe us. Perhaps the reason for this is because we are the ones who are called to bring His Word into His field.
THE GOOD SEED SCATTERED
But I want you to notice how Jesus does not just call us seed here; He calls us “good seed.”
Do you see yourself that way? Do you see yourself as “good seed”? The Lord does. He sees you as containing potential like a seed, but not just any old seed; good seed!
Now you might not look like much. I might not look “good.” But the Lord sees me as good seed. More specifically, He looks at us as good seed capable of producing “wheat.”
Now wheat has always been an important commodity because it holds so many good health benefits, but back in Jesus’ day, wheat was all the more valuable. And this is the way the Lord sees us! As good grains capable of producing invaluable spiritual resources!
Church, when the Lord looks at you and I as His new creations in Christ Jesus, His heart is the same as it was in the beginning when He made His original creation. He looks over all of His completed creation and says, “It is very good!” So, like He spoke over His creation in the beginning, He says concerning you today, “They are very good.” Go to someone who is in Christ today and tell them, “You are good.”
This example of the Lord referring to us as seed reminds me of how James addressed the recipients of his letter: In James 1:1 he began by saying— “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
Notice, first of all, this interesting label he gave them of “the twelve tribes.” Now the recipients of his letter were Jews, but I don’t believe that is the only reason he referred to them as the twelve tribes.
You see, these twelve tribes of Israel, that is an important part to the history of God’s people, originated from the twelve sons of Jacob (i.e., Israel). These twelve men were who God was going to use to establish His first covenant people. But I want us to pay particular attention to what these twelve sons of Jacob were really like in the natural… They each had their own different personalities and their own weaknesses and strengths. As a matter of fact, only a few of them were honorable sons and the rest of them were just simply a mess, full of faults and mistakes.
For example, you have Levi who murdered many men and was a cold-hearted individual. But it was through the offspring of Levi that God gave His people their deliverer—Moses, and also gave them Aaron along with the rest of the Levitical priesthood. That is a pretty rich heritage, isn’t it? Many times, we think of all the bad things we’ve done and think— “God could never use me to do anything; I’ve been too bad.” But God does not view these things like man does. He is proficient in erasing our moral and ethical failures and calling us in spite of our past. This is how good our God is! Hallelujah!
Another good example is Benjamin: Although Benjamin himself did not have any major weaknesses that we know of, he did not have any extraordinary talents or obvious strengths that we know of either. In other words, he was a good description of God calling those that are weak, base, and foolish to put to shame the mighty, noble, and wise. But guess who came out of this very ordinary man? Our beloved apostle Paul! You see, God specializes in taking those who do not have a bunch of things going for them in the natural and using them in great and mighty ways. He does not want our “abilities”; He just desires our “availability.” So, if you do not feel like you have a lot to offer, good! Then you are a prime candidate for God to use mightily!
And, last but not least, let’s look at Judah: Judah was a leader, and he is well known for being the one who talked his brothers out of murdering Joseph. But although he did some good things, he als0 had relations with a harlot who ended up being his daughter! That is a pretty big moral failure, you think? So, Judah was no spring chicken either. And guess who came through his lineage? King David, Wise Solomon, and subsequently the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ! Oftentimes, we base our usefulness to God on our performance. If we have been reading our Bibles lately and if we have been praying regularly, then we feel qualified to be used. But the moment we blow it and don’t make the best decisions we let condemnation steal our confidence that God will use us. Friends, God desires to use us not because of us, but because of those we are ministering to! Never forget that! In regard to God’s willingness to use us, it doesn’t matter how “holy” we have been or not been. He always wants to minister to people through us, period!
You see, these great works came through these twelve men who were not perfect and made many mistakes. I believe this is to teach us that the fruit that He has called us to produce and the callings that He has given us are not going to be successful because we do not have any faults or make any mistakes. These twelve sons of Jacob are to show us that God indeed calls natural people to do supernatural things.
Now we all have certain inadequacies in the flesh. We all have weaknesses and limitations in the natural. My point in mentioning this is to show us that although most of twelve sons of Jacob were less than honorable vessels naturally speaking, God still used them to be the foundation of His covenant people that were to be used to spread His covenant to the rest of the earth.
But this is when we must understand that it is not who we are in the flesh that is going to do great things for God; It is who we are in Him and who He is in us that is going to do mighty things.
So, we can see that God’s first covenant people—Israel—began from 12 men that were full of faults and weaknesses, but God still worked through them to bring His eternal purposes to pass because of who He is, not who they were.
Likewise, Jesus had twelve disciples—most of them having some major flaws and weaknesses. And it was through this group of twelve imperfect men that God began His next covenant people—the church—and used them to do mighty things.
I believe the greatest example of this out of all of Jesus’ disciples is Peter: Most people would look at the life of Peter as He followed Jesus during His earthly ministry and think— “Did Jesus make a mistake with this one?” We have the benefit of reading the Book of Acts and seeing the finished product but for those who did not see it, I’m sure they thought Jesus had missed it with that one. He seemed like he was completely unqualified and the wrong choice, but God does not make mistakes. Eventually the Lord really did an awesome work in and through Peter and he stepped into his calling to be the leader of the church. And even though he still was not perfect, and he made other mistakes even then, he was fulfilling his call and commission that the Lord gave him to be the leader of the church.
So, we can see through this pattern that God does not call the equipped; He equips the called! As my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, has said time and time again— “God doesn’t have anyone qualified working for Him yet”, and you and I are not the first. You see, all of us are full of imperfections in the natural, similar to how these two groups of twelve men had. But you know what? … God used them to be the foundation of a great number of His covenant people! Likewise, God will use us to be the foundation of a great number of future disciples and of a great deal of fruit. The Lord does not need “able” people; All He needs is an “available” people—that is, a people who are fully committed to Him.
Now I want us to pay specific attention to the second half of James opening address: He said, “To the twelve tribes scattered abroad.”
These two words “scattered abroad” literally describe seed that is taken from a farmer’s bag and sown all around in various places. This is how God sees us—His children and disciples. He sees us as seed that has been in the Lord’s satchel and He has sown us, is sowing us, and continues to sow us into different areas for the purpose of establishing His covenant on the earth.
Church, this is how God sees each and every one of us—as those seeds—good seeds—that are being scattered all around in order to bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
You see, a seed has two main purposes: Number one, they are programmed to produce the fruit that they were created to bring forth. And number two, they are programmed to reproduce themselves at the same time by creating more seeds.
This is significant regarding our calling: You see, we at this church have had the opportunity to be programmed by God’s Seed, His Holy Word. And now we, as these programmed seeds, are called to produce fruit to the glory of God and to reproduce ourselves. The fruit speaks of our production to establish the kingdom of God on the earth. Mark chapter sixteen gives us some of this fruit that we are called to produce—preaching the gospel, casting our demons, healing the sick, etc. The reproduction of seeds speaks of us making disciples and reproducing ourselves by putting into other people what God has put into us.
In reference to us being seeds, I believe the greatest example of a seed that we have is Jesus: You see, God sent His only begotten Son to a specific place, to a specific people, and at a specific time as a seed for the purpose of reproducing Himself. You could basically translate John 3:16 as— "Because God so loved the world, He sowed the best Seed that He had so that we would not be eternally separated from Him, but to become seeds just like Jesus." And through God’s eternal plan and purpose, He was sown into the earth for three days and three nights and then on the morning of the third day He was resurrected. And now, because of His death, burial, and resurrection, God has gained His harvest—an innumerable number of other sons and daughters! This was the purpose of God’s Seed!
In John 14:12 Jesus made an incredible statement concerning this harvest of believers that would come as a result of His work on the cross. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father.” You see, the word “greater” in this verse can also just be simply defined as “more.” So, the greater works that Jesus was speaking of were not necessarily greater works in regard to quality but were greater works in regard to quantity. In other words, He was looking at the result of the millions of people that would believe on Him and have the same signs following them as He had been following Him, and therefore, there were “more” works!
You see, this is the power of a seed! Not only does it have the capability of producing its fruit (i.e., the works) but it also produces more seed. Likewise, not only are we capable of producing the fruit of Jesus, but we also are called to produce disciples— As Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.” Just as there was great fruit that came through the twelve sons of Jacob and through the twelve disciples of Jesus, likewise, we are called to produce the fruit we are called to produce, and to reproduce ourselves. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us!
So, we are God’s seeds. We are those good seed that the Lord has sown. And even though our outer shell might not look like it has much going for it, what has been placed on the inside of us is what is going to bring forth fruit and glorify God. It didn’t begin with you and I, of course. It started with Jesus’ disciples that the Son of Man sent out 2,000 years ago and has now culminated in us being the good seed sent out by the Master.
TARRY NOT ON THE TARES
But as Jesus’ parable makes the point of, it is not just the Lord who has sown His seed into the world; the wicked one (i.e., the devil) has sown his tares in among the wheat. These “tares” are described as the “sons of the wicked one” (See verse 38).
Did you know that just as God has his children, the devil has his too? And the truth of the matter is—there are not any children of anyone or anything else! There is only the children of God and the children of Satan. And as this parable points out, they are sown together in the field. Therefore, while it might be apparent to the angels which are the wheat and which are the tares, it will not be so obvious to us.
You see, Jesus described these children of the devil as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (See Matthew 7:15)—meaning, they might look the part of a Christian. They might talk the talk. But their fruit will give them away. Which is why Jesus taught us to judge them by their fruit because if one is child of God, they will have much of the same fruit as God in their life because, after all, if God is their Father, then they ought to grow to become like Him, right?
On that note, notice how Jesus’ disciples gave this parable a different name: In verse 36, when they came to Jesus, asking Him for an explanation of this parable, they said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
So, they didn’t call it the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares” like it’s most commonly referred to today; they only recognized the tares’ part.
Church, how easy it is for us to only focus on the negative side of things. I’ve seen how so many in the body of Christ tend to do this very thing. “Oh, it’s so bad!” they say. “There’s so much wrong with the world” and “The state of the church is not good.” But what about everything that is good in the world? What about all the advancements the kingdom of God is making? Why not emphasize that?
Now if you only watch the news and listen to/read what is being propagated on the internet, you will have a hard time seeing all the good going on around us. But I challenge you to not just listen to the bad news; feed your faith on the good news—that is, the gospel! And there is plenty of it!
THE CONDITION OF THE WORLD
Now Jesus explains that the “field” that His good seed was sown into is the world (See verse 38).
Many people have attempted to use this story as an illustration of the condition of the church, noting that there are both true believers (i.e., wheat) and false Christians (i.e., tares) in both the church at large and individual local churches. And this certainly is true—for in the universal church as well as in individual local churches, there are always going to be wheat (that is, those who are legitimate, born again Christians) and tares (those who are still under the sway of the wicked one). In fact, in every denomination there are both legitimate and illegitimate children of God. There is no corner any denomination has on the truth, nor is there any group that all its members are saved. I personally believe every group & denomination of believers has both some good and some bad in them.
But let’s also consider this when it comes to the true church—you and I: You see, God’s church is not brick & mortar. No, it is comprised of each of us who know the Lord and are known by Him. And inside of each of us—there is wheat. There’s good seed. But guess what else we all have? Tares. There is ungodliness, faults, mistakes, and failures in all of us. So, to expect perfection from ourselves and have these unrealistic standards is not warranted. Sure, we should aspire to grow and mature in Christ, but there are just some things that we are going to struggle against as long as we are in this flesh. And your flesh might differ from mine, and mine might be different from theirs, but the fact is, we all have carnal flesh, and it is likely not going to be fixed until we receive our glorified bodies. I bring this up because I know firsthand how much the enemy uses this against us. Yes, he will constantly remind us of our imperfections and those proverbial “tares” that are in our lives to keep us under condemnation—thereby keeping us from reaching our potential.
I mean, I’ve met people who are so driven to see the world saved that they have zero joy in their lives because they are constantly focused on the countless thousands who are dying without knowing the Lord. And don’t get me wrong—we certainly should have a heart for the lost. But the error that I’ve seen in those who admirably have this heart of evangelism is they fail to rejoice in the ones who are saved! Did you know that’s what the angels do? Jesus told us that they rejoice over the one who turns to the Lord, not grieve over the 99 who don’t.
I think this principle is applicable to us as well—because shouldn’t we be more “glass half full” when it comes to the progress God’s kingdom is making in the world around us instead of the apparent progress the devil is making in the world around us? Likewise, shouldn’t we learn to rejoice more on the progress God has made in each of our lives instead of mourning over the flaws that remain in us?
However, while this is the case with the Lord’s church—both universally and individually—Jesus made it clear that the field is not the church, but the world (See verse 38). So, this means that in the world itself, there will always be good seed that the Lord sowed, and there will be bad seed that the devil sowed. And we are not going to change that—nor should we try.
You see, there is this contingent that wants to clean the world up and save it. And while this is certainly noble and these people have good intentions, it is important to understand that cleaning up all of these tares is not our job. In fact, the Lord even told the angels to not try and remove these tares until the end of the age. So, no, just as it is not the angels’ job to clean up the Lord’s field, it’s not our job to clean up our own field.
Now that doesn’t mean that we don’t play a part: Notice how Jesus said that these “tares” were sown “while men slept” (See verse 25). This sleeping is the opposite of what the Scriptures teach us to do—watching and being vigilant. So, Jesus just simply made the point in His parable that the sons of the wicked one who have been sown are not to be focused on, but people remaining spiritually awake and watching can keep those tares from ever being sown into the world.
THE LONGSUFFERING REAPER
But, finally, one of the more fascinating parts of this parable to me is how the Lord will deal with these things:
We are told how the reapers—those servants of the owner—came to the owner (likely referring to Almighty God who sent Jesus into His field to sow His seed) asking, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” (See verse 27). What a profound question by the Lord’s angels, and one that so many do not know the answer to today.
You see, so many have the idea that God is in control and He is going to do whatever He wants to do. So, when there is evil in this world, questions arise like— “Why would a good God allow evil?” Well, what they fail to realize is that we have a devil out there! Yes, Satan is the cause of all of the stealing, killing, and destruction out there, not God.
Well, we don’t exactly know why the devil is here and why his judgment is set off in the future, but we do know God is good and He is absolutely just in all His judgments. Amen.
So, this is a big part of understanding how the kingdom of God works—It operates according to the seedtime & harvest principle, but the enemy is busy sowing bad seed just like God is busy sowing good seed. Therefore, we need to know that the enemy is in charge of the bad fruit that we see in the world today. God is the One sowing the good seed, which is meant to produce all of the good fruit we need in this world. It is that simple, but religion has helped many to misunderstand it.
But the fact is, God is apparently not quick to judge the tares! No, His judgment is apparently suspended. Why? As the Scriptures teach us, it is because God is longsuffering, not desiring that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance (See Second Peter 3:9). Yes, He gives all of the tares out there space to repent and turn to Him. That is the gracious and merciful God we serve! Hallelujah!
But I want you to notice in this parable that this impending judgment of being thrown into the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth was not reserved for the wheat but for the tares. In other words, the judgment was not for the good seed that the Lord sowed; it was for the bad seed that the devil sowed. Now, which one are you? Well, I hope that we all here today are the good seed—the wheat sown by the Lord Jesus—and if we are, we don’t need to fear God’s wrath and punishment—for we are not reserved for wrath but that we might be gathered together and put in God’s barn as Jesus said here. Glory to God! Then, as Jesus said, “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (See verse 43). What a day! What a kingdom!
All of you High Pointers out there know that recently we started a study on the various parables that Jesus taught about God’s kingdom in an attempt to learn how His kingdom works. We are doing this through a series entitled “The Mysteries of the Kingdom.”
So, we started out looking at the kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest through Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. In it, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the ground that it is sown into is our hearts. So, while everything in God’s kingdom begins with a seed, it all has to do with the heart. It’s been very eye opening as we have learned how to get this seedtime & harvest principle working for us instead of against us.
But this Parable of the Sower certainly was not the only time Jesus used the analogy of sowing & reaping to describe the workings of the kingdom of God. In fact, the analogy of a seed and the fruit it produces was His most oft-used analogy to teach about what the kingdom is like.
And today, I want us to look at another one of these seedtime & harvest type parables—because I see this next parable as a beautiful description of exactly what we celebrated last Sunday: Let’s look at Jesus’ Parable of the Mustard Seed.
First of all, let me say that I consider the truth contained in this parable to be so pertinent to understanding the kingdom of God because a failure to understand this is what caused much of the doubt in God’s chosen people regarding their Christ.
You see, to the Jewish mind, the Christ was coming to release them from their captivity. He was coming to deliver them from their oppressors. This was how they interpreted the various prophecies that were made concerning their Messiah, and understandably so. For it would have taken one with exceptional spiritual perception to see that the Messiah was first coming to free them, not from the natural oppressor, but from their spiritual oppressor. But the Lord Jesus indeed came to, first of all, deliver mankind from the dominion of sin. In other words, He came to deliver us from the root of sin before He set us free from the fruit of sin—which were all of the injustices going on in this sin-cursed planet. Therefore, even those as spiritually perceptive as John the Baptist doubted because they did not see the immediate freedom from their Roman oppressors.
And this is why I believe Jesus gave us the Parable of the Mustard Seed—It was to teach the people that the kingdom will not appear and manifest in the manner in which they expected it to, but will come in a slow, gradual manner.
So, let’s begin looking at this parable and see not only what Jesus was teaching His disciples of that day, but also what He is teaching His disciples still today.
THE KINGDOM’S PERFECT PICTURE
I want us to do this by looking at all three instances where it was given in the Gospels. Let’s look first at Matthew’s account:
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus said, “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’”
In Mark 4:30-32, Jesus said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
And finally, in Luke 13:18-19, we see that Jesus said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
Now, first of all, it is important to note that in both Mark & Luke’s account of this parable, they both quote Jesus as saying essentially the same thing— “What is the kingdom of God like? And with what parable can we use to compare it to?”
This shows us that Jesus was drawing on the single best natural example that He could, to paint a picture of what the kingdom of God is like. In other words, this parable is the one specific illustration Jesus chose to use to describe to us what things look like in the kingdom of God. This is important, church, because out of every example from this world that Jesus could have used to illustrate God’s kingdom, He chose to use the example of a mustard seed. And that is the part of this parable that is of the most importance—the mustard seed.
FAITH AS A MUSTARD SEED
It shouldn’t surprise us that out of all the things Jesus could have used to describe the kingdom of God, that He would use the mustard seed. Why? It is because this was one of Jesus’ most oft used objects to illustrate the workings of His Father’s kingdom. In fact, twice we see Jesus teaching His disciples how if they just had faith as a mustard seed that they could see supernatural results such as mountains being removed, and trees being uprooted:
In the first instance I am referring to, Jesus was talking about the casting out of the demon from the epileptic boy, and when His disciples asked him why they could not cast it out, He responded— “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you had faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20). In the other instance, Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus teach on the importance of forgiveness. So, His disciples immediately responded to the call for unlimited forgiveness by saying, “Increase our faith!” Then Jesus responds by saying, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6). So, in both of these instances, faith is the subject, and it is likened to a mustard seed. (Isn’t it also interesting that He talked about something being “uprooted” when talking about the faith needed for unlimited forgiveness?)
Now as we are looking at how the kingdom of God operates in this series, this is a point that needs to be made—EVERYTHING in God’s kingdom operates by faith. It’s not our works; nor is it solely God’s grace. No, faith is what the kingdom of God works on. Yes, what God has done had to happen first, and yes, what we do plays a part in some things. But faith—which is simply us believing in what God has done by His grace—is necessary to receive all of the benefits of His grace.
But the point that Jesus was making in these Scriptures is that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which was widely viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds (a point we will get into later).
But many Christians still err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more results.” This is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have. But someone will invariably respond to this, “But Trey, I do believe! I do have faith! Yet I am not seeing those results.” But this is when we need to consider what else Jesus was saying in these verses.
You see, a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herbs. To me, this is the point Jesus was making: It is not about having more faith; it is simply about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results.
So, then the obvious question is: How do you plant those mustard seeds of faith? And the answer to this question is found in both of these passages of Scripture: Jesus said Matthew 17:20, “You shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’” And also in Luke 17:6, “You shall say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea.’”
What is the common thread you see here? It is that the way we plant our faith into the situations and circumstances that are currently in our lives, in order to see them removed, is by speaking to them. Yes, we sow little mustard seeds of faith by speaking faith-filled words! This is how faith works! This is how faith produces wonder-working results! It must be planted, and then allowed the time to germinate under the ground until it springs up in the natural and changes those situations and circumstances! Never forget: saying is sowing. Hallelujah!
But where you see this kingdom principle fail in so many believers’ lives is in that time between when the mustard seed is sown and the time it begins to bear fruit in the natural. And sometimes that is a long period of time, saints. But this is how the kingdom generally works: First seed, then time, and then (after what generally is a longer period of time than our flesh would like) the harvest! His kingdom does not usually manifest when we want it to.
And this is exactly what Jesus was teaching in His Parable of the Sower we are looking at—that the kingdom of God is progressive, and it is growing. But the key in understanding them is in knowing that it grows underneath the ground first. In other words, its progress is usually unseen. And that is when we must believe that God is working—not when we see it, but when we know He said it. This is faith and this is kingdom living.
WHAT IS THE MUSTARD SEED?
But let’s continue today focusing on the example of a mustard seed itself because I believe we can see from this example why this was what Jesus chose to use …
Now it has been said that a mustard seed was one of the smallest seeds that they had in Jesus’ day. However, this very small seed was capable of growing up into a large shrub that would usually get up to ten feet in height (in some cases 20 feet). While there were many other seeds that they had that were larger than a mustard seed, a lot of them would only produce a plant the fraction of the size of these mustard trees.
So, the obvious point Jesus was making was that the kingdom of God does not come in a grand and glorious fashion. It begins rather humbly, small, and seemingly insignificant.
Now this has a whole range of applications but one of the main ones that I want us to see (and that I believe the Lord wanted us to see originally) is how this mustard seed was HIM. Yes, the mustard seed in this parable was referring the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! Let me explain …
Notice in Luke’s account how Jesus went on to describe this mustard seed as that “which a man took and put in his garden” (Luke 13:19).
Now I think it’s obvious who this “man” was that Jesus was referring to—It’s God the Father. God took His only begotten Son and intentionally sowed Him on the earth, which is His garden. Yes, He took He Whom was from the beginning—the Word—and sowed Him into His field known as the earth.
Now that is reminiscent of how the Bible teaches us that God placed the first Adam in His garden, isn’t it? In Genesis 2:15, we are told— “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” So, just by that one Scripture, it seems obvious that the “man” that Jesus referred to is “the Lord God” and the “mustard seed” that He put in His garden is the Man, Jesus Christ, also known as the Last Adam.
But in the case of Jesus, He wasn’t just put here on the earth to tend and keep it; no, Jesus—as that mustard seed—came to be sown into it not just onto it. And we know how this happened: He was crucified and sown into that tomb like a seed, but like it is with planting seeds, the purpose was not just for His crucifixion and burial; the ultimate goal was for a resurrection of that Seed! And this is exactly what happened! God received a harvest from that Mustard Seed He sowed into the earth! Amen!
Then Luke’s Gospel goes on to tell us that this mustard seed “grew,” which is also how Jesus was described in the beginning of this very Gospel:
You see, we understand that from the time Jesus was born in a stable to the time of His death on the Cross, He had no form or comeliness (i.e., no majestic form or splendor) and there was no beauty that we should desire Him. As the prophet Isaiah also stated— “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (See Isaiah 53:2). Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His field. Indeed, our Heavenly Father said, “Light be,” and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (Compare John 1:1-14).
In Luke 2:40 we see that Jesus “grew” and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him. Then in Luke 2:51, we see that He “increased” in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
But it wasn’t just Jesus that was doing the growing; it was His kingdom that was increasing as well! Yes, throughout His entire ministry, His kingdom was growing. It was expanding. Might we say, the King and His kingdom was taking “ground”?
So, this is how it started. But when Jesus went to the Cross for us, that was when that mustard seed brought forth the most “mustard!” A point we will get into momentarily.
But back to the fact that the Mustard Seed was one of the smallest:
THE SMALLEST TO THE GREATEST
You see, as I just mentioned, the kingdom of God and its Christ did not come in a grand and glorious fashion. Jesus and His kingdom came as the least, humbly to be a servant of all. From His own mouth, He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
And, herein lays another great principle of the kingdom of God: it is that the first will be last and the last will be first. As this same passage in Matthew chapter 20 states—“whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 28:26-27).
This is how God’s kingdom operates, church. We see this by how the Christ and His kingdom came in an unassuming way. And it will operate the same in our lives as we lay down our lives and learn to become “the least of all seeds” ourselves. May it be so in all of us, Lord! Amen.
But the wonderful promise that we have through this kingdom principle is that when one does humble himself and puts him or herself last, promotion is on the way. This is what Jesus went on to describe in the Parable of the Mustard Seed when He said, “but when it is grown (i.e., this is that due season where we will reap if we faint not), it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree…”
We see this in the life of Jesus, who humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross. And we see how now God also has highly exalted Him, giving Him the name above every other name! Amen! (Compare Philippians 2:5-11). And I can assure you, church—the same will work for us too! As we sow ourselves as a mustard seed into this world, laying down our lives and taking up our cross, we can expect the Lord to exalt us in due time. This is just how the kingdom works!
Saints, do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? Do you want to be a great tree, planted in the most honorable place and position? Well, this is what the Lord wants for you as well. He says, “Oh, that all of my people who are called by my name may become trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that I may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3) Be it so, Lord, according to Your Word. Amen.
THE BIRDS AND THE BRANCHES
And, last but not least, Jesus goes on to describe that when this little mustard seed grows to become this great tree, “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
So, what do these birds represent? Well, earlier in the day when Jesus gave His Parable of the Sower, the birds of the air described the prince of the power of the air—Satan—and his demons who come to steal the Word that is sown in our hearts.
Now we know that Satan and his demons are not finding refuge in God’s kingdom, so this could not be the correct interpretation here. But I do believe in this parable, Jesus is again referring to heavenly beings, but this time it is God’s heavenly angels.
You see, the Book of Hebrews teaches us that when Jesus came to the earth, He was made a little lower than the angels (See Hebrews 2:9). This did not mean that He lost His divinity or was considered lower than God’s angels in rank or position, but rather that He was made lower through His humanity and abilities. In other words, because He became human for the suffering of death on the Cross, He was made flesh and, thereby, became lower than the angels.
Now we know that after He was raised from the dead and received His glorified body that He is no longer lower than the angels. Now He has become greater than they! (Hebrews 1:4-14).
So, in this parable, the mustard seed which once was "food" for the birds of the air has become so much greater than those same birds and even provides for them now. In other words, when Jesus Christ was a man, He was indeed a little lower than the angels, but now He is so much greater than they.
Saints, Jesus has received a more excellent name through His death, burial, and resurrection! And now that He has been seated at the right hand of His Father and has been given the name above every name, He is far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named! (Ephesians 1:20-21). Hallelujah!
So herein lies another great principle of God’s kingdom for us to understand: If all things have been put under His feet (Ephesians 1:22), then all things must also be put under us because we are His body, the church. Yes, saints, we are His branches (See John 15:5). Therefore, being parts of His body and heirs of this kingdom, we have been given authority to use the name of Jesus and cast out the kingdom of darkness and we also have the blessed promise that the Lord’s angels will minister to those who have inherited salvation. Amen!
Beloved, this is something that we need to understand and embrace: that we are extremely valuable and blessed being a part of this kingdom. Many Christians have this mentality that we are just little sinners who happen to be saved by grace, but nothing could be further from the truth! We were sinners, but when we were saved and became members of this everlasting kingdom which cannot be shaken, we are no longer just helpless pawns to Satan and his kingdom. Jesus said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and we are that church—the branches of that mustard tree that was sown into the earth and has arisen from the ground! Glory to the Lamb!